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Snoopy Goes to Jail? The Case for Right to E-Privacy

The issue of privacy is becoming an increasingly gray problem in the media and in the home.  Where does the line get drawn over the right to e-privacy?  When should the government interfere?  In the past couple of years, I’ve seen issues come up in the news over this topic and refrained from posting — stories like Facebook (FB) privacy leaks and that poor girl, Phoebe Prince, who committed suicide after the FB bullying.  But this latest story merits comment, that of a Michigan man who is charged with reading his wife’s emails,  article here.

Since I don’t have a background in law, I’m going to give my opinion based on my own experience.  Bear with me in the interim.  My [future] husband and I only see the need for 1 computer in the home.  We already share this common computer for our email and other web needs.  Even before being married, we’ve shared our email passwords with one another, and those to other pertinent logins online.  This is a sign between us of absolute trust in each other.  I would hope the same goes for many other married, and about to be married, people.  Marriage, a marriage built on trust, should be completely open.  If there is something you want to hide from your partner, something’s definitely wrong there.

In the article, Leon Walker states that this was a shared computer and it was well-known where his wife kept her password.  For convenience, it is not unheard of for people to write down their passwords, even though most websites say never to do that, in the same way you should never write down pin numbers, etc.  I think that if Leon Walker can prove that this scenario was accurate, he’d have a stronger case.  It seems to me that reading a spouse’s email is something that should be resolved in the home, not in a court.

On the other hand, Clara Walker says it was her computer only, and the prosecution is making it out that Mr. Walker hacked into her program.  That’s something entirely different.  Hacking is never acceptable.  I think the jurors will have to look at intent.  Leon Walker discovered his wife was having an affair with a previous spouse, one who’d been physically abusive.  Regardless of whether it was wrong or not to read a spouse’s email, what did Mr. Walker do with that information?

The news article leaves it unclear.  If Leon Walker sent emails through his wife’s email program, he would essentially be impersonating her and that could be construed as fraud and identity theft.  If he sent emails through his own email, representing only himself, that’s unadvisable, but not really all that different from eavesdropping on a conversation and acting on what you hear.  Gmail even calls a string of emails back and forth between 2 people, a ‘conversation’.

We might never know if Leon Walker suspected his wife of an affair and that’s why he read her email, or if it was something as innocent as an (unhappy,) accidental discovery.  I admit that my opinion’s somewhat biased here.  Let’s not forget though that the wife, however injured by her husband’s “snooping”, is in the wrong for having an affair.  She’s already broken the marriage trust, or covenant, if you will.  She’s also potentially endangering herself and her child by having a relationship with a man who was physically abusive.  If it was a parent-child relationship, I think that people would laud the parents trying to protect their child from harm’s way.  In the end, Leon Walker has not been charged with any physical injury — he didn’t go and “shake up” this love rival.  He made a bad(?) decision to get involved where evidentially, he wasn’t wanted.  And now, ‘snoopy’ may go to jail for it.

Where would you draw the line?  Comments welcome.

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Lauren Miller is a Midwestern born writer with a passion for Jesus, the written word, and dogs. She has seventeen years of experience in the library field and reviews books for the Historical Novels Review (UK). Lauren is the Managing Web Editor and writer for The Scribe, a web publication of the St. Louis Writers Guild, where she also serves as their Director of Communications. She likes to spend her free time enjoying period films, discovering new reads, and being surrounded by other people’s pets. Lauren, her husband, and their wily Maine Coon (who isn’t quite a dog) live in Missouri. You can learn more about Lauren’s writing at LaurenJoanMiller.com.

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